There is a seat on the bench next to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim that, for the past 35 years, has normally been reserved for associate coach Bernie Fine.
That seat was empty for the duration of Syracuse’s 92-47 win over Colgate on Saturday.
“Just an empty seat,” Boeheim said. “Make what you want of it.”
Plenty was made of it, as the SU players showed their support for Fine by tapping on the seat as they checked in and out of the game. They acted as if Fine was still sitting there, slapping hands with them while offering his encouragement.
“We left his seat open in honor of him,” guard Scoop Jardine said. “Everything we did tonight is what coach Fine would have wanted us to do.”
Fine would’ve had plenty to be happy about, as the Orange outscored the Raiders 32-6 over the final 11 minutes of the first half, and cruised to its 45th straight win against Colgate.
Instead, there was a cloud surrounding the post-game media session.
“It was sad a little bit,” guard Dion waiters said. “But you have to go out and play basketball and hope everything else works out for him.”
Fine’s absence has also been missed in practice.
“Coach Fine is always the guy that pushes you to become better than what you are,” Jardine said. “That’s the type of coach you need.”
Fine was placed on administrative leave after a police investigation was opened on Thursday following accusations that Fine allegedly molested a team ball boy back in the 1980s.
Since the news came out, Boeheim’s message to his team has been clear.
“You focus on basketball,” he said. “You have to be able to come in and focus on what you’re doing when you come to play. That’s what we do.”
In the meantime, Fine has had the unwavering support of Boeheim.
“I’ve been friends for 50 years with Coach Fine,” Boeheim said. “That buys a lot of loyalty from me.”
It has earned him loyalty among several former players and coaches—including Rony Seikaly, Eric Devendorf and Tim Welsh—as well.
“Bernie would never do such a thing,” Rony Seikaly, who played at Syracuse in 1980s, said to The Associated Press. “I vouch for Bernie. There is no way something like this could ever happen in my eyes. No way.”
Current players feel the same way.
“When one of your family members goes down,” Jardine said, “you pick them up.”
Corey Mallonee contributed to this article with reporting from Syracuse.